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Congratulations! You are a manager. So, …what happens now?

David Brent - a character in the BBC television mockumentary The Office

You have just been appointed manager. Now what?!

In some companies you will probably be enrolled in a management skills course, hopefully be given plenty of opportunities to practice those skills and sufficient hand-over time with your predecessor. In other companies you will get a title, a laptop and a lot to figure out for yourself while requests start pouring in and escalations popping up.

Whatever the situation, ‘new kid in town’ is a blog that will help the new manager understand and develop core management and coaching competencies, while providing inspiration to the accomplished leader along the way.

So, whether you are a rookie or a guru, stick around. This will be a valuable investment of your time.

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Your First 90 Days as a Manager

press_start_first_90_days_manager

Your first 90 days as a manager are a critical time. You are the new guy so you are entitled to ask ‘silly questions’ but it is important that you learn and you don’t ask those same questions again a year down the line. You are also picking up things but at the same time you are expected to start delivering soon. The balance between what you know, what you feel you should know and what you are expected to know is not always easy to maintain or monitor. There will be times in which you are confident you have figured something out and then something will make you realize you actually didn’t. Your team seems be doing a lot of work but it doesn’t all make sense and you feel there must be a better way of doing things but you are not sure how just yet. You are also probably wondering how much and how soon you should start changing things.

What are then the first steps to be taken as a new manager in order to set yourself and your team up for success?

Create a 30-60-90 days plan

Break down the first 90 days into a 30-60-90 days plan. What do you want to have accomplished at the end of each period and what will you still need after the initial 90 days?

You probably don’t want to start changing things on your first day on the job before you understand certain key dynamics and processes. Give yourself, and the team, some time before you start changing things around. There are usually enough things to learn and understand first. Here is how a breakdown of the first 90 days can look like:

30 days – Listen, learn and reflect – this is a time to absorb information and reflect back on what you have learnt.

60 days – Listen, learn, reflect, evaluate and propose – after the initial wave of information and now that you have had some time to absorb it, you can start evaluating together with your team what opportunities and quick-win exist and propose the first small changes.

90 days – Listen, learn, reflect, evaluate, propose and implement – if there is consensus around the changes proposed then this is a good time to start implementing.

Ongoing – Listen, learn, reflect, evaluate, propose, implement, measure – after the initial 90 days and after you have implemented the initial changes it’s time to measure and evaluate the changes. Did you achieve what you wanted to achieve? How was the exercise for the team? What will you repeat and what you will avoid in the future?

This is what a 30-60-90 days plan could look like

30-60-90 days plan

30-60-90 days plan example

During the first 90 days as a manager it is also crucial to start investing time in some fundamental aspects: knowing the business and the team, understanding the processes and the systems.

Know the business

If you are new to the company get to know the business by understanding the product or service provided and understanding the customer.  Find the right people, meet them and ask all the questions you need to ask in order to understand what the company is all about.

Depending on your role you might want to ask questions around the product creation process, the target consumer, what sells and what doesn’t and why.

Invest time in getting a solid and deep understanding of the company’s value proposition. What kind of value does the company provide to whom.

Know the Team

Equally important to understanding what the company is all about is getting to know the team that you will manage. As a manager you will have to enable their performance and develop their talent. Modern management is about coaching and in order to be a good coach you need to be able to adapt your coaching style to the characteristics of the person being coached. In order to know how to adapt to the different individuals in the team you will need to know them and understand their needs, their strengths and their development points.

Set-up initial 1 on 1 conversations with everyone in the team. Ask them what they want you to know, what is important for them and what expectations they have. You can also use this time to start clarifying your own expectations. This is however not the time for big announcements and promises. You are not in that position yet and this could backfire soon putting dents in the relationship with your team which is the last thing you want. This is where you start getting to know your team.

Understand the processes

Some people prefer to ‘work-shadow’ members of their team while others prefer to ask questions whenever one pops in their mind. Regardless of the approach, take the necessary time to understand the most important processes. Make sure you understand where a certain process begins and where it ends (for instance, if you are managing a team responsible for deliveries, the process will probably begin when an order is entered and will end when that same order is delivered and signed for by the customer). Ask why certain steps are taken and possibly why then and not at a different time or by another team.

Understand the systems

Depending on your specific role you might want to know more or less details about the systems being used. The important thing is that it is clear to you how the system or systems support the different processes and not the other way round.


For a new manager the journey ahead is paved with all kinds of challenges but these can be turned into opportunities to learn, grow, develop and coach others. Integrating these key learning aspects in your 30-60-90 days plan will set you up for a strong start as a manager.

Have you created your own 30-60-90 plan? How did it go? What did you find difficult and what did you find easy to do? What have you learnt from this experience and how will you apply it in the future?

 

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How To Be A Great Manager

9 Steps That Will Make You A Great Manager

Some people are naturally good managers while others need to go through extensive training and coaching. Either way becoming a Great Manager does not happen overnight and will most likely require a number of failures. While there is not one specific thing you can do or a formula you can apply, there are however typical traits common to all those that have been described as great managers by those they managed.

How to be a great manager

How to be a great manager – Click image to enlarge

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Effective Problem Solving

one way to fix a problem

Don’t bring me solutions, bring me problems!

There are many ways to solve a problem and many times in which the same problem recur. There are also different kinds of problems and certainly different ideas on how to fix these. Some people have one standard way of approaching a problem, almost regardless of what the actual problem is. Other people dive straight into solutions, oblivious of the surrounding elements and conditions that might have caused the issue in the first place and finally, other people just do nothing and hope that the problem eventually fixes itself.

These are all ways of dealing with problems; however as a manager you are now faced with more and probably more complex problems and applying a standard method, shooting solutions and running away or play dead are not very effective ways of fixing these.
You also want to fix the problem in the short-term but you certainly want to create the conditions that will prevent the same problem from occurring again.

While there is not one single solution that fits all situations, there is however a proven approach that can be applied to effectively solve problems.

A3 Problem Solving

A3 Problem Solving Template

A3 is a structured problem solving approach first developed at Toyota. It’s called A3 because of the ISO A3 single sheet paper used to lay-out the problem and all additional information and actions related to identifying, analyzing, fixing the problem and validating the solution.

An A3 guides a person or group of people through a series of logical steps that will ensure a common understanding of the issue determining all subsequent actions until the problem is solved. The paragraphs that comprise an A3 may vary a little as this approach has been widely adopted over the years by several businesses and institutions; however the core structure of an A3 always contains the same fundamental elements.

Background

What is the context surrounding the issue? What background information is necessary for everyone involved to fully understand the situation? The answer to these questions will ensure a common understanding of the situation and align everyone involved in fixing the problem.

Issue

What is the actual issue and why is this an issue? Not only you should be able to describe the issue in a short factual sentence, but you should also be able to articulate why this is an issue in the first place? Why does this particular situation need to be addressed and what would be the consequences of not addressing it?

Next to creating a common understanding of the problem, the answer to these questions also creates the necessary sense of urgency. Rather than expressing emotions over a perceived issue and present an anecdotal case, at this point you want to be as clear and as factual as possible. Use numbers, graphs and facts to describe the issue.

Goal

What do you want to achieve? How would you know that the problem has been fixed?
Targets need to be expressed in identifiable terms and need to be specific and measurable.

Root-Cause Analysis

This is a crucial element in ensuring that a problem will not recur. As long as you work on the symptoms and not what is causing the issue then you have not effectively solved the issue but merely addressed the consequences and found, at best, a workaround but not a solution.

Use the simplest problem analysis tool to identify the root-cause of the issue but ensure that you are in fact dealing with the root-cause.
There are several methods to be used and the simplest of all is probably the 5-Whys method. This is an iterative interrogative technique that explores cause-and-effect underlying a specific issue.

Five iterations of asking why a problem is occurring is generally sufficient to determine the root-cause of a problem, hence the name of 5-Whys method, however, it can take six or seven or more iterations depending on the situation. Again, just ensure that you have identified the root-cause.

A study on the lighting of the Jefferson Memorial has become a classic example that illustrates the 5-Whys method:

Problem – the stone surface of the Jefferson Memorial was deteriorating.

  1. Why was the stone surface of the Memorial deteriorating? It was frequently washed with harsh cleaning agents
  1. Why was it frequently washed with harsh cleaning agents? The amount of bird poop on the stone surface required frequent cleaning with soap that proved to be the most effective
  1. Why was there so much bird poop? There were a lot of birds, attracted to the insects at the Memorial
  1. Why were there so many insects at the Memorial? Insects are attracted to the bright lights
  1. Why are the insects more attracted to the lights at the Memorial than other light sources? The Jefferson Memorial’s lights were turned on first each evening so all the insects in the area headed there at dusk
    Root-Cause identified

Lights at the Jefferson Memorial were then turned on at the same time as all the other lights in the surrounding area and the problem never recurred. The issue was effectively solved by identifying and removing the root-cause.

Proposal

What should be done in order to address the root-cause, solve the issue and reach the goal? Are there any short-term solutions that can be implemented in the meantime? At this point, you are able to determine how to approach the issue.

Plan

After creating a proposal it’s time to add details to the plan: Who will do what and when? Put down a list of Actions that will need to be taken, assign an Owner for each action, agree on a Due date and monitor progress.

A3 Action Plan

A3 Action Plan example

Follow-Up

What follow-up will be needed? Are there any issues or remaining problems that can be anticipated at this point?
Check that the problem is actually solved. If not, repeat the exercise.


These are the typical elements of an A3 Problem Solving template. Depending on the situation you might want to add details or paragraphs, however try to keep an A3 down to essential information. You want to take away what you don’t need, you don’t want to add things.

The goal is to effectively fix a problem not to create complexity in the process. A3’s have been used a lot in manufacturing and warehousing but also in the office environment. In fact, any kind of problem can be approached using an A3.

Happy Problem Solving!